The Other Side of Paradise: Discovering the Everyday on Isla Holbox, Mexico

The Other Side of Paradise: Discovering the Everyday on Isla Holbox, Mexico

There’s a rich, inland world behind the five-star hotels and photo-op beaches


is Coachella then Isla
is Mexico’s Glastonbury. You can still find the
beautiful white-sand beaches, palm trees and blue sea, but it is a
little rougher around the edges. For me, it is this untouched charm
that makes the island a joy to photograph.

We arrive by ferry in the middle of the night and are met by a
man in a golf buggy, the most common mode of transport on the
island. He takes us up the dirt track roads, past the bars and
taquerias on the main strip, to our hotel. It is very dark, streets
are lit by a few scattered orange lamps, but I am already scoping
out photo locations.

I’m drawn to colour and realism – I want people to see the
places I visit as they really are, not how Instagram would lead you
to believe. For me, this set of photos represents the Holbox we
experienced, which is quite different to the photos we found
researching online.

You only need to walk a block inland from the beach behind all
the five-star hotels and you’re in a completely different
environment. Parents taking their children to school, friends
meeting for tlayudas and endless construction sites; it would seem
this island is set for great change in the future.

I have 20 rolls of film but after only a few hours I’m Googling
photo labs on the mainland to find out where I can pick up more.
Even though it’s off season, the continual blue sky, beautiful
tropical plants and colourful houses make for a photographer’s

This island is undeniably a tropical paradise but scratch the
surface and you find a small, tight-knit community, going about
their everyday lives among the pastel-coloured palette they call

@joewhoward |

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